Tuesday, September 28, 2021

By James Ward, PA

Government has approved a “comprehensive” review of Ireland’s planning legislation in a bid to boost the delivery of the national housing strategy.

On Tuesday Cabinet signed off on the review, to be overseen by the Attorney General, which is due for completion in September next year.

The Government has also approved a review of the country’s Freedom of Information legislation, which came under scrutiny in the recent controversy over Katherine Zappone’s appointment as a UN envoy.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the country’s planning laws need “a complete overhaul” to deliver on the targets set out in the Housing For All strategy.

He said: “When we published Housing for All earlier in the month, I reiterated my view that housing is the single most urgent and important social issue facing our country at this time and that I am determined that we as a Government get to grips with it.

“We also committed that the Housing for All plan would be underpinned by accountability and a strong delivery focus.

“This large-scale planning reform programme, which will bring about fundamental improvements to our planning laws, reflects the approach we are taking overall, with challenging deadlines and a truly cross-Government approach to delivery of Housing for All’s objectives and other major plans.

“Our planning laws need a complete overhaul to meet the ambition outlined in Housing For All.

“Streamlining and simplifying the planning laws will support the accelerated delivery of housing set out under the Housing for All plan.”

The Housing For All plan promises to deliver 33,000 housing units each year over the next decade, in a mix of social, affordable and private developments for sale and rent.

But the plan was criticised at a Simon Communities conference earlier this week, with experts describing it as “unrealistic”.

A Government press release said planning legislation had become “overly complicated and difficult to navigate, contributing to significant delays and additional costs in the delivery of housing.

“The planning legislation review sanctioned by the Government today is of an unprecedented scale, using experts in planning law under the supervision of the Attorney General, to improve our planning laws,” the statement said.

The Cabinet has also signed of on a review of the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said: “The FOI system is central to transparency and ensuring the public has confidence in the administration of the State.

“For the system to work effectively, members of the public and media need to be able to access information from public bodies.

“Since the current FOI legislation was enacted in 2014, we have witnessed major innovations in communications technology.

“While these have been broadly positive, they have transformed the ways in which individuals and public bodies interact with each other, and it therefore represents a challenge to the existing FOI system.

“It is for this reason that a comprehensive review of the FOI framework is timely.

“This review will seek out ways in which the FOI model can be brought up to date to ensure that it is suitable for today’s needs.”

A road map is to be published by the minister’s department in the coming weeks, setting out the process for the review.

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